As the Kansas City Chiefs were crowned Super Bowl LVII champions in Glendale, Ariz., crowds of people gathered throughout Philadelphia to mourn the season that was — a season where they were so close to a championship. Sunday's result gives the Chiefs their second Super Bowl championship in four years, while the Philadelphia Eagles remain at one.
Thousands of people gathered soon the final whistle blew when defeat was in hand. The mood was largely somber and bitter throughout campus and the city. Students who had been watching the game on campus made their way downtown, where many people were already present.
Many students had been watching the Super Bowl at various locations around campus. Several college houses — including Lauder, Stouffer, and Rodin College Houses — were hosting watch parties, and the University sponsored an event at Houston Hall, which was attended by hundreds of students and staff members.
At the events, which were around as well-attended as those in 2018, students described how this Eagles season brought them all together.
"I consider Philadelphia my new home for these four years," College sophomore Jake Maeng said. "I just like to see everyone rally around the Eagles. I think is really meaningful.”
Downtown, there was a heavy police presence, with hundreds of officers present to control the crowd and deter violence. Preparations had been underway for days, with the city greasing light poles in order to prevent fans from climbing them. Broad Street, the hub of the celebrations, was closed to traffic for several blocks around City Hall.
Of course, these efforts were designed for a celebratory crowd. Instead, those in Center City seemed to have little interest in climbing poles, preferring instead to keep two feet on the ground and lament. Sirens and chants of "F**k the Chiefs” provided the soundtrack for the dejected crowd.
While most in attendance were peaceful, elements of the crowd turned violent, with fights breaking out and bottles being smashed.
The game was tight throughout, with the Eagles leading for much of the first half. But the Chiefs offense was ruthless in the second half, with wide receiver Kadarius Toney catching a go-ahead touchdown and Patrick Mahomes, who was named the game’s MVP, setting up the game-winning field goal.
Much of the crowd's anger was directed at the game's referees, especially surrounding a defensive holding call on the Eagles' James Bradberry in the fourth quarter. One person downtown, who declined to be named, screamed to the crowd "that ref can rot in hell."
Students who supported the Kansas City Chiefs had spent much of the last two weeks on the receiving end of insults from Philadelphians.
"I totally would have loved to have days off [following an Eagles win], but not more than I love my team winning," College sophomore Kendall Allen said. "I knew that I had no business running to Broad Street [when] the Chiefs won."
But for students and community members from Philadelphia, or who had grown up as Eagles fans, Sunday's emotions were familiar. This was the third time a Philadelphia sports team had fallen in the championship round in the last six months, with the Philadelphia Union and Phillies losing the MLS Cup and World Series, respectively, on Nov. 5, 2022.
"This game means everything to me," College first year Krystof Purtell said. "This day is more important than the birth of my first-born child … my Eagles fandom has always made me feel like a true Philadelphian."
The Eagles last lost the Super Bowl in 2005, and while most Penn students had little memory of that night, some in the crowd say that Sunday night reminded them of what transpired that fateful February.
Despite the bitter end, many were happy that the Eagles reached this point.
The team barely made the playoffs last season, and few would have seen a Super Bowl run for the Eagles a year ago. However, they were a dominant team nearly all season long. The team started 8-0 before a Monday night loss to Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Commanders. The team's only other losses were a pair of defeats when starting quarterback Jalen Hurts was sidelined with a shoulder injury. In the playoffs, the Eagles reached the Super Bowl after handily defeating the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
For international students, or those who had only started following the Eagles when they came to Penn, seeing the team come so close to ultimate success, so quickly, was still a remarkable experience.
"As a French person, I don't really understand the rules, but I love the atmosphere," graduate student Sandrine Rajaonarivony said. "Everybody is happy, sharing food, screaming, and it is just a good bonding moment."
Throughout Philadelphia, people flowed out of bars and restaurants — many of which had been hosting special watch parties for the game — and nearly all of which were packed to the brim. Smokey Joe's, located near Penn's campus, had its party start at 4:30 p.m. and was attended by dozens of Penn students and community members.
As people left bars to head home or join the crowd, the most noticeable element was a profound sense of disappointment on their faces. The team has decisions to make this offseason, and fans have to wait nearly seven months for the next time their Eagles will play. But amidst the anger and chaos of a rainy Sunday night, there were glimpses of hope.
"The city of Philadelphia is always gonna stick together, through good times and bad," Engineering first year Josh Weissman said.
Senior reporters Molly Cohen, Jared Mitovich, and Imran Siddiqui, along with Deputy Sports Editor Walker Carnathan contributed to this story.
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